Seacurus Daily: Top Ten Maritime News Stories 06/02/2015
1. Unions Threaten West Coast Shutdown
US Union-led work slowdowns could shut down the 29 West Coast ports in five to 10 days, the head of the shippers’ association said, urging the union to accept a new offer that includes 3 percent raises. James McKenna, the president of the Pacific Maritime Association, said backups and delays at many of the ports are harming farmers, manufacturers and consumers as the flow of goods approaches a “coast-wide meltdown.” He called on the International Longshore and Warehouse Union to accept management’s second formal contract proposal since negotiations began last May. The previous six-year contract expired last July. A federal mediator agreed Jan. 6 to intervene in negotiations between the two sides.
2. Insurers Suffering Challenging Times
The International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI) has indicated that a number of factors have come together to ensure that 2015 will be a “challenging year” for insurers, combining large claims with a softening market. IUMI’s recently elected new president Dieter Berg noted, “2014 ended poorly, and 2015 started badly". Commenting on the start of 2015 he stated: "There were a number of big losses, involving serious casualties and loss of life.” Berg cited the Hoegh Osaka, which was deliberately beached on Bramble Bank off Southampton after developing a major list. “We have had 1,400 new cars aboard, many of them luxury vehicles, which have been declared to be a total loss…of £100m.”
3. Baltic Index Captures Mainstream Attention
The travails of the Baltic Dry Index has even caught the attention of the mainstream press. Why, they ask, is the Baltic Dry Index important? The Baltic Dry Index is seen as a leading indicator for world economic growth because it tracks the demand of moving raw materials such as coal, iron, steel and copper across the oceans. This key indicator of international economic activity is flashing red and has tumbled to a 29-year low. On Wednesday it dropped 2pc to 577 points, and it has fallen at the fastest rate since the financial crisis, or by more than 60pc during the past three months. The index is now at the lowest level since 1986.
4. MOL Vessel Rescues Castaways
Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Ltd. announced that on Sunday, February 1, 2015, the MOL-operated car carrier Astral Ace found drifting castaways near Malay Peninsula in the South China Sea, and was able to safely rescue two Malaysian and three Indonesian fishermen. The rescue went as follows: At 11:25 (all times were in local time) on February 1, 2015, the Astral Ace, sailing from the port of Singapore, to Laem Chabang Port in Thailand, found drifting fishermen – their fishing boat was half sunk, and immediately began the rescue operations. At 12:15, five drifting fishermen were rescued. At 16:10 the members were turned over to the Malaysian Maritime Rescue Coordination Center. Nice job!
5. LNG Tanker Canal Reductions Cut
Suez Canal transit tolls will remain steady in 2015 except for a reduction in the discount for liquefied natural gas (LNG) carriers, the canal authority said on Wednesday. Authority chairman Mohab Mahmish told a news conference that the discount for LNG carriers had been set at 25 percent, down from 35 percent in 2014. That discount rate had been in place since 1994, he said. The strategic waterway, the fastest shipping route between Europe and Asia, is a barometer for international trade. It is also one of Egypt’s main foreign currency earners. Mamish said canal revenues in 2014 reached $5.45 billion, 6.8 percent higher than the previous year. Total tonnage passing through the canal last year was 962.7 million.
6. Filipino Seafarers to Gain Vote
Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III filed a measure to allow Filipino seafarers to cast their votes online in next year’s presidential elections. The Overseas Voting Act of 2013 requires the Commission on Elections to submit its report and recommendations on proposals for Internet-voting for select sea-based overseas Filipinos. With the elections fast approaching, Pimentel said the JCOC-OVA should immediately be constituted and convened to study the Comelec’s plan to pilot test Internet voting in the Americas, the Middle East, Hong Kong and Singapore next year. “The use of Internet voting is expected to greatly boost the participation of sea-based Filipinos in select countries around the world".
7. Limits of Liability Raised
Shipowners’ limits of liability under the Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims 1976 (LLMC) were last increased under the 1996 Protocol which entered into force in 2004. The 1996 Protocol also enables states to increase limits by means of the “tacit acceptance” procedure. States made use of this possibility in April 2012 when the Legal Committee of the International Maritime Organisation adopted increases of 51%. The cost of bunkers spills was the foremost concern voiced by states during the revision process. The new limits will take effect on 8 June 2015. LLMC limits are based on gross tonnage with two categories of claim, loss of life or personal injury and the rest, usually property.
8. Light Fees on the Fall
UK Minister for Shipping and Ports John Hayes chose the occasion of the UK Chamber of Shipping dinner earlier this week to announce a new reduction in light dues, the mandatory contribution for the upkeep of navigational aids levied on ships visiting British ports. As of 1 April this year, the light dues rate will be reduced by 1p to 39p per net registered tonne. The move, expected to save shipowners collectively £2m ($3.04m) a year, follows a 1p reduction that took effect in April 2014. To recap, as a response to concerted pressure from shipowner bodies, the UK government announced in 2010 that it would be streamlining the General Lighthouse Authorities (GLAs) of the British Isles to reduce the level of light dues. http://goo.gl/SCk21r
9. Philippine Ship Hit By Chinese
The Philippines said on Wednesday that a Chinese coast guard ship had rammed three Philippine fishing boats in the disputed Scarborough Shoal area of the South China Sea last week and Manila had protested to Beijing over the incident. China seized control of the area after a three-month stand-off with the Philippine coast guard in 2012. Beijing lays claim the entire South China Sea, which is believed to be rich in oil and natural gas deposits. The Manila government handed over two protest notes to the Chinese Embassy in Manila, foreign ministry spokesman Charles Jose said. Calls to the Chinese Embassy seeking comment on the protests went unanswered.
10. Seafarers Call for Assistance and Information
Such is the isolation felt by some seafarers, that the Goan Seamen Association of India has submitted a memorandum to chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar demanding for a seafarers’ body is established to help them and their families. They said the agency will help seafarers and their families get necessary information from shipping companies, and also in case of deaths, accidents, job loss or rehiring, to gather information about shipping companies, a proper maritime lawyer to assist the seafarers and to coordinate with port state control (PSC), flag state authorities, international transport workers federation, and various unions for the well being of seafarers. This will also link the government and the seafarers.
Daily news feed from Seacurus Ltd – providers of MLC crew insurance solutions www.seacurus.com
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